How about running the Joseph Smith Papers Project on BYU-TV after it runs on
KJZZ so those of us outside of the Utah media market can watch it?
I wonder... Would Joseph Smith rather have the letters published on a website
where anyone in the world could easily download and view or have them published
in books that are, we're delighted to learn in this article, less than $2400 for
the entire set?I'd guess the former. Maybe the project directors are
planning to do both and the website part was just omitted from this article.
How important is it to know Joseph Smith as a person? Priceless.
As a historian, I know firsthand that the church doesn't want to publish things
that do not make the church--or its founders--look good. How do we know this
won't happen with the Joseph Smith Papers project? We need more than Ron
I look forward to visiting the website that will be created for these documents,
and in learning all that I can that confirms the life's mission of this
Glad to see Dean Paynter's name on the television project. It's sure to be a
So, are there actually any objective non-mormon historians involved with this
It's great to see this project happening. The more we learn about Joseph, the
more I am glad we named a son after him.It was interesting to see
"the Church-owned newspaper" candidly prints even the snide remark by the
reporter, in paragraph 12. The haters will grab onto her statement as if it
were fact, and not attempt to question it.Her gratuitous editorial
opinion in the midst of reporting may or may not be true; and, how do we know
the motivations of unnamed leaders in his "reassignment"? It sounded like those
self-appointed historians who take as fact any opinion that makes LDS leaders
look conspiratorial, while overlooking the preponderance of wisdom and honesty
in the Church's leadership and history.Even honesty (non-censorship)
in publishing the article. We've seen a lot of articles in the DMN that
demonstrate this openness, and expect it will continue.I eagerly
await the TV shows described.
The project isn't even close to being finished, and there are already critics
lined up outside. Amazing! How can anyone question objectivity when the texts
haven't been produced yet? That is both insulting and revealing--the
"objectivity" you are interested in is anything that casts a shadow on Joseph
Smith or the LDS Church. Pathetic.I, for one, am looking forward to
reading these letters when they are published. We all should thank Larry H.
Miller too, since his financial contributions resurrected this project that
started in the '60s and stalled because of money. And thanks to all the
scholars and specialists who have ensured that "millions shall know Brother
Thanks Larry Miller for your generous support...Some of us can't wait to read
history generated from real live documents. Joseph, Joseph, Joseph...He was and
As a member of the LDS Church and an historian, I am intrigued by this project.
However, the LDS Church -- especially over the last couple of decades -- has
been VERY careful about what kind of information is released. They tend to
avoid controversial and negative information and only focus on the
"faith-promoting. This way, the LDS Church and its members are viewed
positively.Since this project is funded, produced, and promoted by
LDS sources, I fear it will not be objective. I hope I'm wrong because Joseph
Smith was such an amazingly interesting individual, but based on past
experience, I don't have much faith in the LDS Chruch's ability to offer "full
disclosure". Projects and articles released by the LDS Church
during the last 20 years, have been disappointing to me. Although they were,
in most respects, historically accurate, they often chose to ignore or edit out
controversial and negative aspects while emphasizing the positive. The end
results were something that gave readers an unrealistic portrayal of actual
events.Nevertheless, I'm anxiously waiting to view this project when
released. I hope it will be worthwhile.
Thank you Mr. Miller for your great contributions to this scholarly project. I
also look forward to the documentaries and the printed materials.I for one
trust the outcome and believe it will follow the procedures and rules as
outlined by the reviewing parties. These methods have gained worldwide
acceptance and I believe the qualified researchers will not endanger their
LDS History Buff, well said. Army Guy, there are decent, well intentioned
people out there (I know this is hard to believe for you) who want to see all
the documents of Joseph Smith published, warts and all. This doesn't mean they
revel in his shortcomings; it means they don't want their history sanitized by
an institution. I would like to know who is on the editorial board and who,
specifically, represents an non-LDS perspective. I don't think for a minute Jan
Shipps, the most eminent non-LDS historian, would allow the record to be
censored. Will the D. News find this out and print a story?
"By the fruits shall ye know them." The "assumption" is that the volumes will
either be "great" or "non-inclusive" or "manipulated." Let's wait and see the
results. Everyone knows that openness and truth always wins in the end.
Five years ago the church released about 400,000 documents in DVD format. As an
historian I use them quite often. While there is a great deal of uncensored
information there are also several hundred entries that are blacked out.Most of them can be seen as an attempt to protect revealing sacred
things like the temple, or to protect matters that were confessional in nature.
Unfortunately, a comparison with journals and other credible documents reveal
that some of these items were blacked out to avoid embarrassing contradictions
with official church history. Likewise, I suspect you will find
that certain materials will not be available for this project because they are
sitting in a special vault in the office of the First Presidency out of the
hands of even the Church's most trusted and faithful historians.Things are much better than they were when Dr. Arrington was unceremoniously
released as Church Historian, but I doubt the Church will really want to release
all the documents of Joseph Smith. I don't know if a table of contents of all
the papers is available yet, but I could tell you just from that what is being
To Clio's Muse:Despite your condescending assumption, I don't want
an institutionally sanitized document either--that was not my point. My point
was, how pathetic it is to assume that the board can't be objective unless there
is a non-LDS viewpoint. That's insulting. And here's something else for you:
there is no such thing as 100% objectivity in the field of history, or any other
field for that matter. There is always an element of revisionism based on the
researcher's personal, inescapable bias. So no matter what the composition,
someone will complain that this board wasn't being objective enough for their
As for Henry Drummond's "embarassing contradictions" in official church
history--really? What deep dark secrets do you think the church has to hide?
Why keep potentially damaging information in a secret vault--if we don't know
about it, why not just destroy it? Nobody would miss it, right? What's the
point in keeping it? But you say the First Presidency is directly involved in a
plot to keep information from the "Church's most trusted and faithful
historians." That's a pretty serious charge. I seriously doubt you have access
to that kind of information. If the Church historians don't know about it, how
GOD BLESS LARRY H. MILLER---not only for this but for all the other projects
the man is responsible for that few know about. I love the man!
If the Church historians don't know about it, how do you? That is the problem.
LDS Historians know what goes on inside the Temple, but non mormons do not.
Maybe they should tell us if the are True Historians.
" If you look for the bad in people, you surely will find it." - A quote from
Pollyanna.- Cynics are cancerous miseries. Joseph Smith was a REAL man. He
never stated he was perfect. Quite the contrary. He lived over 150 years ago.
His paradigms were quite different than ours in 2007. Yet, I doubt very few
people today could stand up to the intense scrutiny of what Joseph Smith's name
has been through in the last 187 years since that morning in a wooded grove.
The more I know about his "real side" the more I respect his ability to move
forward the work of the Lord.
Always remember that Elder Packer said that some truthful things are not always
helpful. Lets not reveal any new facts about the prophet that may cast him in a
For those who wish to know, the vault of the First Presidency is hardly a
sinister secret. Church Historian Leonard Arrington speaks of it in
his Bibliographic Essay in "Brigham Young - American Moses" on page 302 & 303.
He states that he was not allowed access to several works including the diaries
of George Q. Cannon and Francis M. Lyman even though he was the Church Historian
and was writing the book for the Church. This also came up during
the Mark Hoffman Murder and Forgery investigations. Elder Oaks speaks openly of
it in the Ensign of October 1987 on page 63 in this context.Other
documents that the Church has said are in this vault that would have a direct
bearing on the writings of Joseph Smith include "The Book of the Law of the
Lord", and the diaries of William Clayton and John Taylor. I should
state that the last five years have seen a stunning reversal in the Church's
position on sequestering documents and much more has become available. I am a
non-believer but still find LDS history to be heroic and epic. I have high
hopes for Dean Jesses's project of a lifetime.
For better or worse, the Church and its members do have a lot of warts in their
history. Whether those things are released to the public or not is a separate
issue but there existence is a fact. I only point this out to you because at
some point in your life you may find something out that you didn't necessarily
believe could be possible about some beloved leader in the Church, and I don't
want you to quit everything and leave all the good behind because of it. People
make mistakes, some very serious, and the Church is made up of people, so there
are going to be some very serious mistakes. That's how it was meant to be and
that's how it is. I think if people understood this point generally we wouldn't
have such a high rate of inactivity throughout the Church.
True Historians-- The so-called 'Salamander' letter and other False documents
caused the anti-Mormons to dance and cheer and call Joseph a false prophet gold
digger. I knew then that one man could never have found that many
church historical documents in 20 life times. Now we have some
letters that seem to be historical/authentic but haven't been printed yet.
Anti-Mormons think they already know what is written and what we should believe
they contain. Sheeeesh.. 'give me a break'..I think I will
wait until they are printed before I pass any judgments..
Hey Letter: Why do you feel it necessary to attack all those as anti-Mormons who
dance and cheer that when claims about the Salamander letter and other documents
turn out to be false?I get along fine with Mormons, but I also have
an opinion about the veracity of claims made by the LDS Church. There are many
false documents put forward by the Church, including scripture, but that doesn't
make me an anti-Mormon, nor does it make me hate Mormons.Get some
Laguna, since this is a historical topic, I'm sure you can site your reference
and context for you Elder Packer quote that we should "always remember". I'd
like the reference for that... so we can all know how credible YOUR comment may
The Mormon Church should open up all historical records to responsible writers
to review for documenting the true history of this time and part of American
history. America's history belongs to all Americans.
Joseph Smith is certainly one of the more written- about Americans, but people
who criticize him have not felt impelled to base their statements on any factual
ground. This project is another phase in digging deeper into the original
documents, but already we have such a volume of first hand witness statements
and Smith's own personal correspondence that one thing is clear: Joseph Smith
sincerely believed in what he did and said. There is nothing in the direct
evidence that would correspond with the statements or intentions of a charlatan.
In 19th Century America, there were lots of ways for a smart person to become
popular and wealthy. Joseph Smith did not follow them. He took a deliberate
course of challenging and confronting people's assumptions despite the anger and
rejection of the majority. He placed his life and freedom in constant jeopardy
by refusing to compromise. No historian has offered a sensible alternative
explanation, for his actions or his accomplishments, to the one that he offered,
that he had actually had encounters with heavenly beings. What unlettered
deceiver has produced any volume full of inspiring Christian sermons like the
Book of Mormon?
I know that sometimes things get put "out of context", however, let a person
judge for themselves. This is our right as Americans. In my study I have found
fallibility in even church leaders. Sometimes people don't want to face reality
and think of them as some type of a "Santa Claus". They were not. It's time to
see the world as it is: sometimes good, sometimes evil, and sometimes with
truth, sometimes not. God is with all people of the world and I don't believe
God would give a small portion of "truth" to one group of people."Truth"
can be found all over the world.
In your first post you mentioned, "Five years ago the church released about
400,000 documents in DVD format".Do you have a name for that DVD? I
would like to try and get a copy of it.
this is for the writer who called me on a reference to my earlier quote."Some things that are true are not very useful. Historians seem to
take great pride in publishing something new, particularly if it illustrates a
weakness or mistake of a prominent historical figure. For some reason,
historians and novelists seem to savor such things. If it related to a living
person it would come under the heading of gossip. History can be as misleading
as gossip and much more difficult--often impossible--to verify. "Aug. 22,
1981 at fifth annual church ed. symposiumthere are plenty more like
these that show that the church leaders dont want too much truthfullness.
Dear Dance and Cheer. Apparently you feel that God had no value for those who
lived on the American Continent and where not worthy of him even talking to
them. How shallow is your opinion of God! It is God who decides when and where
he will talk to people and when he does they write it down and it becomes
scripture. That is God speaking to us. Your insinuation that the Book of
Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Price are false is not based
on spiritual seeking, but based on closed minded biases.Joseph Smith
did not become and instant prophet overnight. It took him time to learn that
role. He is as human as most of us, but God choose him,just as he choose Moses,
but wouln't let Moses enter the promised land. Abraham, Jacob and Isaac were
prophets, but they were not perfect, yet God choose them to do his work on
earth. Peter denied Christ three times, yet Christ choose him to
lead His Church. Let this research be done then make your decision on the
truth. Don't be closed minded before it is even completed.
I would love to see the "closed sections" of John Taylor's diary (locked away in
the 1st pres. vault) open to the public someday. I wonder what they say?
So, are there actually any objective mormon historians involved with this
There are usually more than one view to history and unfortunately those who cry
for full-disclosure are usually the ones who focus on one minor inconvienient
truth and tend to throw away volumes of good and positive evidences. How many
times have we heard that Joseph Smith was a False Prophet because they never
built the temple in Missouri. I am for full disclosuer to those who are
prepared to receive it with open minds. Unfortunately, that is not the
environment we live in today.
For those who asked about the 400,000 documents the church released in 2002, the
title of the work is: "Selected Collections from the Archives of the Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints".It is available from BYU studies.
The cost is quite pricey, $999.00 for both volumes. This consists of 80 DVDs.
These are mostly jpgs of handwritten documents, letters, and minutes of church
meetings - most of them never before published or available to the public. The
paper has asked that we not put in URLs or I would put the link in but you
should have no trouble using google to find them. You might wish to
visit a library like the University of Utah or BYU and view some of them there
before purchasing them. What you might want to do is to start by reading the
entries starting with July 24th, 1847 on DVD 2. Everyone talks about the
pioneer trek but few people think about what it took to settle this area. You
can read first hand how they did it and most importantly how the felt about
it.Best of luck, and thanks to you all for a wonderful discussion!
Many people have thought they have had the truth here on earth. I believe that
people can be inspired, but I do not believe in one "truth". Just like many
other religions believe their books and scriptures, LDS people have that right
too.But remember that there will always be many more people (billions to
be exact) that have their own "truths". Share if another person desires, but do
not think that everyone has to be the same in their beliefs. They never will
be. You can also believe that everyone will be in heaven, but this is
ridiculous to many people so do not push this.There are those that believe
that your believes were either intentional or unintentional deceits of the
incompetent. This is my personal belief and I will hold to it and find my own
ways in the many "truths" I find in the world's teachings.
If I'm not mistaken, Elder Packer taught this to Church educators whose
stewardship is to the youth enrolled in LDS Seminary and young adults in
Institute. In a greater context (see "Teach Ye Diligently" for this same
quote), Elder Packer is talking about keeping the purpose of seeking all things
"virtuous, lovely, of good report or praiseworthy" in our minds as well when we
are deciding how and when to divulge certain truths. There are
plenty of things that I don't tell my children at their young age, but instead I
wait for the correct time when they are ready for it. Am I taking on a whole
lot of responsibility with that stewardship? Oh, yeah. It is always difficult
to "decide" when someone in your flock is ready for information that you have.
This is why the Church must be guided by revelation--I don't think that any
mortal has the capacity to be the steward of God's entire family w.r.t. church
history, but God is capable enough to communicate to His servants, the prophets,
regarding when the time is right.
THE truth? What we teach as a church is that all churches have much that is
true, but through revelation we have additional to make all truth that is had
today. That isn't to hurt others but to be a comfort and invitation. Stop to
think of it, what would anyone really want to know and believe? Righteous
people can ask themselves that and then look and find it in the LDS Church. The
Church is fact - not fancy and the truths are blessings. Anyone can study with
prayer and an open heart and the blessings can be their own as well, or not as
they choose, but if not it isn't necessary to throw stones or get hot behind the
The point of a documentary edition is to publish the raw documents, so that
historians of whatever viewpoint can then easily access the documents and form
their own conclusions. I believe the Joseph Smith Papers will do this, in the
finest scholarly way. A documentary edition also includes annotation to
illuminate the documents, and annotation is necessarily subject to debate, no
matter who one is writing about. Some may quibble with this or that aspect of
the annotation, but all in all I believe there will be no defensible claim that
anything has been "hidden" (aside from items that might document the temple
rituals) or that the Mormons have "whitewashed" history. I don't blame those who
are suspicious of the whole idea of the church publishing its own history, but
at bottom I think the claim that the LDS church is hiding something quite
damaging is a canard. What do we expect to find, some letter where Smith finally
admits in a "moment of clarity" that everything he said and did was a sham?
My Dear Josh,It didnt seem like the esteemed Apostle was talking about
when to tell the kids that the easter bunny was really uncle Ted dressed in a
fluffy suit. The context was about history. I know the church does it
differently, but to most people, history is made up of events that either
happened or not. It is not conditional on when a person can handle an event in
history, it either happened, according to available evidence or it did not. Only
when manipulation is the goal is your approach used.
These documents will reveal what Bushman concluded in his biography of Joseph -
that he was a common man, full of faults, errors, and sins.But
people will continue to pander their children.In other words, keep
the kids believing in Santa Claus, Joseph Smith, and the Church until they are
so enmeshed that they cannot extricate themselves without severe social
consequences.[Isn't that what they did at Jonestown? and
To Raymond Takashi Swenson | 10:09 a.m.I have read the Book of
Mormon through 5 times, including 2 times as part of a Literature of Belief
course where we spent a great deal of time on the Book of Mormon.I
do not find any "inspiring" sermons that are not already found in the King James
Bible. There are stories, and within the stories there are expressions of common
religious ideas using many superlatives, but there are no profound insights, no
significant understandings to be gained.Without meaning to offend, I
must confess that my assessment of the Book of Mormon is consistent with what
Mark Twain thought of it: "chloroform in print."I am always open to
the profound, and if the BOM contains something profound, please point it out.
Otherwise, it appears to be like most "psychic readings" - you have to really
believe (a priori) in order to "see" them. If that is so, then the BOM belongs
at the carnivals along with the crystal balls.
You get an A+ for spin. But in context of Elder Packers statement that I quoted,
he was speaking about history and it being useful or not, even if true. He
was not talking about telling the kids that the easter bunny is really uncle Ted
dressed up in the fluffy suit.Most people, would like to know if a
historical event happened or not. They can as an adult make up their own minds
as to the events ramifications on their religious beliefs. It seems that you
want the church to filter the faith-promoting evidence from the straight fact
and spoon feed it to people. Sorry, I guess I wouldnt consider that to be an
honest approach. Rather, it is pure manipulation and cult-like.
Once again, we are faced with the case of an elite leadership treating the
common members as "too foolish" and too stupid to be able to handle the truth,
or to govern themselves, or to know what is best for themselves, etc. etc. - all
the same old, tired excuses for justifying tyranny, exploitation, deception, and
corruption.Beware. If true history has taught us anything, it is
that this elitist, priest/king manipulation is the most dangerous of forces.
Joseph Smith never claimed to be infallible or impervious to error. Why does
such an idea permeate the minds of almost every active member I have ever
met?Perhaps it comes from quotes from the prophets in charge during
the Manifesto (and renunciation of polygamy)?But their point was to
keep the membership faithful despite their abandoning the Law of God for the
sake of the rules of men.So which "revelation" was leading the
saints "astray"? "The New and Everlasting Covenant of Marriage"? or the
Manifesto?I suppose we will find out when "the people" are "ready" -
until then, we get milk......give me a break!
For the anonymous person that wondered what it would be like to read John
Taylor's journal, his personal secretary's journal was just published by
Signature Books, entitled In the President's Office: The Diaries of L. John
Nuttall 1879-1892 and it is available from Amazon. Brother Nuttall accompanied
President Taylor in nearly all his official activities, including meetings in
the temple with the twelve, etc. I am not yet halfway through it, but it is very
interesting. If you're looking for some kind of smoking gun, I don't think
you'll find it. In particular, the editor notes that despite Brother Nuttall's
intimate association with Taylor, nowhere is there anything about him ordaining
people to continue plural marriages after his death, as some modern polygamists
claim he did.
Of course, truth is found all over the world. However instead of just finding it
under rocks, around trees, up the hill and down in the valleys, in one village
or another, truth has always been specifically given to the world by a prophet,
chosen from a people. Whether it is Moses, Paul, Joseph Smith, or others. You say you don't think God would just give it to just one people? No,
he gives it to all of the world, but always through a people. But the world
threw it away and it had to be restored. Again, it was restored just as it has
always been given: by a prophet chosen from a people, who share it with
everyone. If you try to make it into a contest about who has the
truth - it isn't. It is just His way of making sure it remains pure and is
protected from the adversary. The Church has the truth and shares it in a
uniform program for all to find and use. Hebrew, Jew, Christian,
Mormon, or whatever, they are all the same to God at the moment he chooses that
people to administer His gospel to the world.
The quote from Elder Packer has been misrepresented.He did not mean
that truth is not important. He meant that truth can be abused if used to just
"gossip" historically to try to discredit an historical figure. The
accomplishment or message of a great historical figure can be much more
important than to spend our time trying to find his human frailties, if those
are used to try to discredit what he brought to the rest of us.It is
not a matter of trying to hide the truth so that people can't know. It is a
matter of priority. He didn't say to hide the truth. He said that it just
isn't always useful, and he is right.We can confuse ourselves with
the idea that just because it is true that we have to know it, or that it is
necessary for our judgement of something. It just isn't always necessary. To
suppose the Church is hiding things to fool you is just a personal problem of
not knowing where to put your trust and faith. You can always put it with God
and He has chosen at this time for you to get it from the Church.
Better break out the Urims & Thummin glasses so we can read this stuff.
Why all the debate and discussion? Ask God yourself in faith and nothing
doubting and He will reveal the truth of all things to you.God lives
and He talks to everybody, but it all depends on who is listening.Read Moroni 10:4-5 -- 4 And when ye shall receive these things, I
would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of
Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart,
with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto
you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. 5 And by the power of the Holy
Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.
I came across this chat in an email bulletin. I am an LDS member and a
scientist. I feel no fear of the disclosure of truth in any form. In the end
truth will win out whatever arguments we have. I am impressed that a Church
accused of so much calumny continues steadfast in its message of love and truth
and continues to publish so much of its documentary material and encourage its
people to seek out truth from all sources. I respect diversity of belief and
opinion. I can live with critical alternative viewpoints comfortably, and I can
respect those viewpoints as valid beliefs of another honest person without the
need to accuse them of dishonesty or stupidity. Let's respect one another's
beliefs as genuinely held and get on with making the world a better place where
the good in all people of goodwill can be harnessed for the common good of
The truth(if not watered down or diluted or altered) shall make us
Amen to spv's comments. There are too many cover-ups in church and government.
Please give the people the truth. I can handle it.
Truth is not a buffet of idealism or opinion, available for the "picking and
choosing" to justify any given lifestyle. It is absolute, unchanging and
constant. Discover it, understand it, and come to know it... then more will be
"given" without contradiction to the foundational truth already understood. Discovering the truth always involves a change in lifestyle if obedience
to truth is the objective. There is no reason to debate the truth if you know
it. If you know it AND are obedient to it, you are free!
Dean Paynter was my Jr. Jazz coach believe it or not. He's a good man, I"m sure
it will be good. PS Dean, you still owe us a pizza party. :)
It's interesting, though otherwise mainly a waste of time, to read this
discussion. It generates much more heat than light. The Joseph Smith Papers
national editorial board is composed of Stephen Stein, Mary Jo Kline, Harry
Stout, and Terryl Givens, all impeccable scholars, 3 of whom are not LDS. The
Joseph Smith Papers Project is endorsed by the National Historic Records
Preservation Commission, which is the highest credential such a project can
attain. Many of the editors on the project have equally high individual
credentials in documentary editing and many have advanced degrees in history.
The Book of the Law of the Lord will be published in the Journals Series. There
will be a living website to go along with the shelf full of books. Your patience
is appreciated. For those who want to know, your patience will be rewarded. I
don't know what to say to those who, either pro or con, already know it all.